This week on Borgen, the producers finally take the ultimate step of producing a two-parter, thus lessening my whining about having to talk about two things at once. After spending much of this series barely holding her Danish coalition together, Birgitte Nyborg decides to go worldwide anyway, launching an ambitious effort to negotiate peace in a fictional corner of Africa. Meanwhile, as she strives for her biggest political triumph yet, her family situation takes its biggest toiletward plunge yet.
So, this could be the most ambitious single Borgen story yet - can they pull it off? And, as ever, spoilers - watch the episodes on iPlayer first if that bothers you.
A Borgen Of Two HalvesTo be honest, they've mostly handled the two-parter by producing two distinct episodes, rather than attempting to produce a two-hour storyline with a glaring cliffhanger. Part of me is disappointed I didn't get huge halfway heartbreak, the kind of "Oh shit!" moment we often saw on The Killing, but it was very much in keeping with Borgen's usual stately pacing. The first part handled Birgitte's wrangling of circumstances to get the talks going, and then the second week covered the event itself. Easy.
The concept of the fictional politician interfering in the affairs of a fictional foreign nation does make Borgen seem even more West Wing than usual, and much like that show, it fastforwarded over the dull details of the talks to give us the dramatic flashpoints and character moments. How much crucial domestic incident was glossed over during that montage during part two? How much gay-bashing did Birgitte partake in to get the bigoted President on board? We'll probably never know.
This approach - big broad strokes and edited highlights, instead of seeing every move in the chess game - isn't what I'd want from this show every week, but for a one-off Special Global Edition, it worked fine. They've cleverly left the last two episodes free for more Classic Borgen before the second series ends. In the meantime, we had Birgitte's great triumph, slightly sullied by her use of blackmail. But obviously, that's one of the big questions in this series: How much will you sacrifice personally to achive power and universal good? And that made it feel like part of the ongoing story, even though the style changed a bit.
"Meanwhile, Elsewhere In Denmark..."And elsewhere, from the same thematic area, Birgitte's daughter Laura goes off her medication and has a glorious breakdown, finally forcing Birgitte to confront what she's given up to get here. I'm still finding this the least interesting part - in many shows, this "Meanwhile, Back At Home..." stuff struggles not to seem standard, although the young actors here are decent - but we have now reached the point where it hits the real storyline and interesting things can happen. Next time, hopefully, the media get wind of Laura's condition and we see them struggle with how to cover it. Or, in the case of Satan's Servant Laugesson, not struggle at all with running a string of unpleasant headlines bashing the mentally ill.
Speaking of the media, Katrine and Kasper are back together and working through their problems like adults. Or are they? Their faults are on clear display despite the bliss, and it really isn't obvious whether they can work through them on love alone. The ambiguity is wringing me out, but its beautifully done and probably my favourite part of this episode, along with Katrine and Hanne's monstering of their corporate target. Considering we never got any firm evidence that he wasn't "The Merchant Of Death", I wonder whether we'll be revisiting that guy.
On the subject of Kasper, wasn't he unemployed at the end of last episode? I know we had a comment from Birgitte about giving him a chance to come back, but I'd have expected a show as serialised as Borgen to toss in a scene, or at least a line, to cover his rehiring. Maybe they figured it wouldn't serve much purpose - to be fair, it only bothered me for about two minutes at the very start.
So, that was Borgen's first two parter, and it was good. An interesting change of pace, and we still have two "regular" episodes left to finish off the series. Looking forward to that a lot, even if it means I lose the weekly joy of writing these reviews. See you in a week for the last one!
Borgen airs 9PM Saturdays on BBC Four. Check out the official BBC Borgen site, or see recent episodes on iPlayer. Watch out for the shuttlecock.